The chair of the joint constitutional review committee on amending section 25 of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation, Vincent Smith, has had to step down from his position to deal with allegations of unethical conduct levelled against him by the DA following media reports.
Earlier this week, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen stated that the party would be reporting the matter to the parliament’s ethics committee claiming that Smith had “received benefits both financially and in kind from Bosasa” and had not declared them as is required of someone in his position.
The DA’s claims are based on reports that Smith allegedly received at least R670,000 from controversial facilities management company Bosasa over the past three years.
Steenhuisen’s affidavit details a security upgrade of electric fences and a high-end CCTV system worth R200,000 received by Smith in addition to R100,000 in cash from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson every month.
The ANC MP, confirmed that he excused himself on Tuesday morning in order to work on finalising a statement in response to the allegations.
“In light of the allegations that were made in the media over the past weekend, I have since consulted with the leadership of the ANC in caucus. We are all in agreement that I am obliged to respond,” he said in a statement.
“I confirm having entered into an agreement for a personal loan with Mr A. Agrizzi which is repayable by me. This loan was processed to me in two separate payments; an amount of R220 000 in 2015; and R395 000 in 2016. The loan was for the university tuition fees of my daughter in year one (2015) and year 2 (2016).
“I deny any further assistance, financial or otherwise, including the installation of CCTV cameras at my home from him or any other person or company. The cameras that are at my home were paid for by myself.
“My sole directorship of Euro Blitz 48, a company through which the loan was processed, is fully declared in the register of members interest and this has been the case since the acquisition of the company.
“I am in total support of being held accountable and I therefore welcome any investigation into my personal loan transaction. I will fully participate in the parliamentary process led by the Ethics Committee; a process which I have no doubt will absolve me completely.
“I am also going to present myself to the ANC Integrity Commission at their earliest convenience in the interest of being held accountable by my own organisation.
“I have also made a request to the Chief Whip and leadership of the ANC Caucus that I be allowed to step aside from chairing any parliamentary committee until the Ethics Committee process is finalised.
“I therefore urge the Parliamentary Ethics Committee to speedily process this matter in order for me to clear my name as soon as possible.”
“I don’t want to discredit any committee I am in. I think I need to clarify that. So I did say to them ‘look you run solo for the morning session while I respond to this article. And by lunch time I would have responded’,” he told News24.
“I just needed to come back to my office to do the necessary in terms of dealing with that. But I am in parliament, it’s business as usual for me – but I just thought let me clarify this first,” Smith said.
The ANC has welcomed Smith stepping aside from his position as committee chair pending the outcome of the ethics committee process.
“We welcome his willingness to subject himself to the Ethics Committee of Parliament in effort to clear his name. We further welcome his voluntary declaration to appear before the ANC Integrity Commission to ventilate these matters that have been raised in the media, as a means of being held accountable by his organisation, the African National Congress,” said ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu in a statement.
The party has expressed their belief that Smith is being targeted and that the timing of those who leaked this story to the media “ is inspired by the ANC’s position on the expropriation of land without compensation”.